I arrived in Las Vegas excited for a fight. UFC ‘94 Penn Vs. Pierre. I also had the added bonus of an assignment: Speak to complete strangers about a topic I am passionate about, Women’s MMA, then parlay those conversations into an article about opinions whether women had a place at the big show. I entered the lobby at the MGM Grand and immediately saw my first Team Hawaii shirt, followed by a GSP headband, another Hawaii shirt eyeing the headband and snickering. It was electric. I asked a couple both wearing Penn shirts having come from Hawaii to see this fight. I was surprised to hear both partners emphatically answer “yes,” not only should women have a place but they would have an eager audience. The next question was launched at a group of Penn supporting men. Once again “absolutely, that would be great to see.”
I decided to take a different tack and ask a rabid young group of Canadians, (the afore-mentioned headbands) They too were eager to see a card with women and even thought their next home should be the WEC. Citing perhaps women weren’t ready for such a big show and that the WEC’s smaller weight classes might make it a better fit. I was stunned. Who knew that revelers in Las Vegas, there to see the biggest fight card of the year, (all male) would be so positive about women’s MMA and thoughtful about where the best home might be? I took notes and moved on to dinner where I saw a man who looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place his face. My husband said “whoever he is, he sounds French-Canadian.” A light bulb went off in my head and I thought, “Yves Lavigne!” The highly respected MMA referee was at the next table. I then began half an hour of not staring at him and having a discussion with my husband about whether I had enough “Carpe Diem” to ask him for a brief interview (and by brief I was thinking two questions max would be tolerated). His check arrived and his dinner companions, Eddie “The Twister” Bravo, and Douglas Crosby (UFC judge, and stuntman) said their goodnights. He began to pass our table and in the most blubbering, stammering, practically unintelligible, what passed for English I asked him if he could spare me a moment. He smiled extended his hand and introduced himself, which reminded me to introduce myself, and he sat down at our table. It was more exciting and successful than I could have let myself imagine my fledgling effort would be. I asked him whether he thought women belonged in professional MMA? He answered that yes they absolutely had a place, adding that of the MMA fights he had seen in Japan he thought that the women’s matches could often be more interesting because of the technical aspects of the women’s game. “Women aren’t trained to rely on strength so their technical skills are very high.” He continued that audiences seem ready to watch ladies do their thing in the ring. He then went on to make a point that had me thinking all weekend. He said “ the pool of women isn’t deep enough.” We spoke for a few more minutes, I asked him about what he thought about women becoming referees finding a home at the big shows. He had some poignant thoughts on that subject. Generally very happy for women to make a living in all professions surround the MMA.
Size being his only issue. With which I agree.
“The pool isn’t deep enough.” All I could think is “How do we make the pool deeper?” The image that came to mind was the Cart before the horse. Do there need to be bigger venues for women to perform at before more women decide to become fighters? Do more women have to have a sincere desire to fight, and fight small shows to have more venues open their doors? I have looked online and I have found lists of women fighters, not a ton of fights mentioned, but they are out there. A central governing body may do the trick, like A Pro EliteXC. There are several smaller bodies like Hook-n-shoot, MMAFA, Extreme Challenge, and Fatal Femmes, all doing their part to push Women’s MMA into the spotlight. There are upcoming reality series which will hopefully propel the sport forward an be the next generation of “Fight Girls”, (a series I loved,) that showcased Women’s Muay Thai fighters.
Which of the Triumvirate UFC, WEC, or Affliction will take on the challenge? The pool is deep enough. Fightergirls.com lists 171 professional women fighters, and I only counted the first three letters of the alphabet. (Twice in some cases, I lose track easy). Give them one governing body to fight for, and they will show you not only the depth of the pool, but the depth of their talent, will, and strength. The ladies are all pushing the rock up the hill, chasing the carrot, training their hardest, fighting where ever will have them. Working incredibly hard to earn their place at the table. Yves Lavigne can’t wait to give them his pre-fight speech. “In the ring you are the stars, but I am the boss.”